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Friday, November 02, 2007


by Sondra Zeidenstein

for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

My father always had veto power over his wife and four daughters
and, backing him up, like when I ran away, underage, to be with my boyfriend,
the police, the handcuffs, the cop car to search me out and bring me home,
where my mother had taken to her bed in disgrace,

big,Tudor style house on the corner, shaken to its laundress-inhabited cellar.
My mother never once spoke back to my father.
Mostly, she’d turn a blank face to his constant sniping,
but once, when he threw a fork at her across the table

because she didn’t serve the dishes in the right order or at the right pace,
or didn’t put a separate set of salt and pepper shakers by his plate
so he, stutterer, halted by s’s, wouldn’t have to keep asking
pass the salt,
she ran upstairs to the third floor, as far away as she could get,

her daughters crowding in behind her, quivering, and called her mother.
I’m putting my money on Nancy Pelosi, her courage to talk back
to the men, the despots, my father all over again, on her unsmudged
wet lipstick, her wide mouth, such shiny white teeth,

flat, pink, clean tongue, on the cut of her silk blouses in every color,
under a soft jacket, over a skirt, her legs still beautiful. On the pearls.
I’ve never seen a woman of seventy, attractive, sexual,
look with such confidence in the eyes of a man in power and claim her opposition,

you are wrong, your policies are blunders,
in slow, clear sentences. True, she’s had a hard time.
After months at the gavel, her eyes are set deeper,
her neck is thinner, strands of her coiffed, dyed hair fall out of place.

When the Senate whip, her ally, stands too close beside her in front of the mike,
puts his arm around her back, his fingers coming up over her other shoulder,
she keeps her trained face poised for the camera,
but her eyes flicker, to all of us, her disdain.

Not like my downtrodden mother,
rough-skinned, plump, penniless without my father,
in that secure hold at the corner of Bryant and King,
never standing up for herself or her four skinny, fidgety daughters.

Sondra Zeidenstein's poems have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook collection entitled Late Afternoon Woman. A Detail in that Story is her first book, Resistance is her second. She is editor of several anthologies including A Wider Giving: Women Writing after a Long Silence and Family Reunion: Poems about Parenting Grown Children, and publisher of Chicory Blue Press, a small literary press, now twenty years old, that focuses on writing by older women.